Handmade Charlotte & The Great Pumpkin Layer Cake

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As many of you know, I love a great fall party. When I asked creative guru Rachel Faucett of Handmade Charlotte if I could document her fall themed soiree for Atlanta Magazine’s HOME, she quickly said of course, and we were off and running. Creating a fall party can be fun and mostly easy peasy. Here is one of my favorite recipes from the party:

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The Great Pumpkin Layer Cake
Serves 12

For the cake, you will need: 

– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
– 2 teaspoons ground ginger
– 1 3/4 teaspoons ground allspice
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1 1/2 cups sugar
– 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
– 1 cup canola oil
– 4 large eggs
– 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
– 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
– 1 tablespoon grated orange peel

Note: 2 fluted bundt pans.

To prepare the cake:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter bundt pans; Butter and dust pans with flour. Sift 3 cups flour and next 7 ingredients into medium bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat both sugars and oil until combined (mixture will look grainy). Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and orange peel; beat until well blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until incorporatedDivide batter between prepared pans. Smooth tops.

Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool cakes completely in pans on rack. Run knife around cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto racks, then turn cakes over on to a platter.

For the frosting, you will need:

– 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
– 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
– 1 tablespoon dark rum
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
– 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar

To prepare the frosting: 

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in dark rum and vanilla. Add powdered sugar in 3 additions, beating just until frosting is smooth after each addition (do not overbeat or frosting may become too soft to spread).

For the chocolate icing, you will need:

– 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
– ½ cup cream

To prepare the chocolate icing:

In a small sauce pan heat chips and cream whisk until smooth.

To assemble the cake: 

Place 1 pumpkin cake layer, rounded side down, on platter. Spread the of cream cheese frosting over top of cake to edges. Top with second pumpkin half. Drizzle with Chocolate icing using a fork in a zig zag splatter pattern.

  • Note – Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

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For the full feature Atlanta Magazine’s HOME  is on newstands now.

Photos: Raftermen

 

 

 

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September is Sagra Season

What the heck is a "sagra"? A sagra is a local festival, mostly held in villages, all over the Italian countryside. Join me as I share my sagra experiences!

What the heck is a “sagra“? A sagra is a local festival, mostly held in villages, all over the Italian countryside. It’s something that I really had no experience with since we lived in a seaside town for so many years. I vaguely knew what it was from visiting friends in the countryside, but I had never attended one. This year, as you know, we moved to the countryside, and there are sagre (sagre, plural) everywhere. Usually tied in someway to food, apples, polenta, truffles, boars…you get the picture. The village gathers in the main square (in most cases) or even a field or the streets. Since it’s hosted by the village for the surrounding area, everyone turns out. Sometimes there are food trucks or food vendors, and usually there’s an open fire somewhere where a local specialty is being cooked by your neighbors, or yummy things are being fried or grilled. There are lots of families and of course family activities like jumpy houses.

What the heck is a "sagra"? A sagra is a local festival, mostly held in villages, all over the Italian countryside. Join me as I share my sagra experiences!

It’s a great way to raise money for the community. Communities here are a very tight knit group. Plus everyone can come together and celebrate the season. Needless to say, it’s a great place to people watch, catch-up with folks in the neighborhood, eat great food, and drink local wine. Most likely these festivals originated from old country fairs or harvest celebrations. It’s easy to attend a sagra because everyone is welcome. Look for signs along the road near villages, the theme (most often food related) will be on the poster along with the dates. They are usually held on the weekends, and keep in mind these are nighttime events usually starting at about 8:00 pm.

Most sagre are set up the same: you buy a food and drink ticket, and then they bring your order to your table. The way it works most often is they either give you a number for your table, or they come pick up your ticket, retrieve the order, and bring it to you. Knowing the ropes is super helpful. Next time you’re in Italy and nearing a village, look for the posters. You can’t go wrong or more authentic.

We are attending several this fall; I am seriously thinking this might just be my next cookbook.

Sagre of Italy…xx

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Tomato Basil Soup Recipe: An Easy Winter Meal

Chilly winter months are the perfect time to whip-up a batch of tomato basil soup. This tomato basil soup pairs well with a grilled cheese, too.

At last weekend’s L.A. style+photo workshop, I whipped up a quick batch of this cream of tomato basil soup for our attendees. They were able to capture the cooking process and style their bowls, too. After all, the best part of a food photoshoot is actually eating the food.

This tomato basil soup pairs wonderfully with a grilled cheese. At the workshop we made grilled cheeses with fig and prosciutto, but any sort of grilled cheese would be perfect. Use whatever is in your fridge and embrace an opportunity to be creative with it! There’s no such thing as a bad grilled cheese.

I love soup during chilly months, and since according to the groundhog, there is still a lot of winter ahead of us, store this recipe in your arsenal to pull out when you need a quick and easy lunch or dinner.

Cream of Tomato Basil Soup
Serves 8
You will need:
– 1/2 medium onion sliced thin
– 3 tablespoons butter
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 teaspoon salt
 – 1/2 teaspoon pepper
– 2  28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
– 4 cups vegetable stock
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 1 cup fresh basil chopped
To prepare:
In a large stock pot, heat butter and oil, add onions, salt and pepper.
Sauté until onions are lightly caramelized. Add tomatoes, vegetable stock, cream and basil. Simmer for 45 minutes. Garnish with basil. Serve warm.
Note: The soup may be made creamy by placing it in a blender or using a hand blender if desired. I personally like it a little chunky.
Enjoy!
xx, Annette
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Picture Perfect Parties Turkey with Pear Walnut and Crispy Bacon Stuffing

Turkey with Pear Walnut and Crispy Bacon Stuffing

Tis’ the season for my book Picture Perfect Parties. If you want to pull off an amazing holiday soiree, dinner party, or Thanksgiving feast, now’s the time to pick up a copy. As a special treat on the blog today, I have my famous Thanksgiving turkey with pear walnut and crispy bacon stuffing recipe which is guaranteed to be a show stopper.

You’re welcome, and let me know how it turns out. Happy Thanksgiving! xx

Turkey with Pear Walnut Crispy Bacon Stuffing
Serves 8-10

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

You will need:
– 20 lb. Organic Turkey
– 2 teaspoons flake salt
– ¼ cup olive oil
– ¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary
– 4 cloves garlic minced
– 1 lemon

Ingredients for the *mirepoux mixture for the bottom of the roaster:
– 1 carrot diced
– 2 celery stalks dices
– 1 yellow onion diced
– 2 cups turkey stock (I use store bought)

To Prepare:
In the bottom of a roasting pan place carrots, celery, onion and stock. Put a rack into the roasting pan. Place turkey on the rack.

Combine salt, oil, rosemary, and garlic, rub the entire turkey with the mixture, place whole lemon into the cavity of the turkey. Place in the oven with an aluminum foil tent on the top of the turkey for 4 hours, basting every half hour. Remove the tent for the last hour of baking, and bake until meat thermometer reads 150 degrees F

Pull from the oven and let rest.

*Reserve the mirepoix for the gravy.

Stuffing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. *Note: place in the oven once you have pulled the fully cooked turkey from the oven, and it is resting.

You will need:
– 5 slices of bacon
– 1 yellow onion chopped
– 2 stalks of celery chopped
– 3 cloves of garlic minced
– 1 cup toasted walnut halves
– 3 pears cored and cubed
– 4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
– 4 tablespoons chopped rosemary
– 3 links of Italian sausage, out of the casing and crumbled
– 1 loaf of country bread cubed
– 3 cups of turkey stock

To Prepare:

In a large sauté pan, cook bacon until crispy, drain, and set aside. Reserving about a ¼ cup of the bacon drippings in the pan (discard the rest) sauté the onion, garlic and celery in the bacon drippings, when translucent, add the sausage and sage and rosemary walnuts, pears remove from heat. In a large bowl place the bread cubes and the turkey stock, add the mixture from the sauté pan, and crumble the bacon into the bread bowl combine thoroughly.

Grease a casserole dish pour the stuffing into the dish. Set aside until ready to bake

*Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven, serve warm

Gravy

You will need:
– Mirepoix, defatted
– 2 cups turkey stock
– 2 tablespoons corn starch

Place the mirepoix into a saucepan, heat, and add turkey stock, and warm.

In a small bowl place cornstarch.  Add 3 tablespoons of the warm mixture to the cornstarch, mix with a small spoon until a paste forms. Add the paste to the gravy mixture to thicken. Stir until reduced. Remove from heat and strain into a bowl. Serve on the side with turkey and stuffing.

Photo Credit: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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Picture Perfect Thanksgiving Starter: Squash Soup

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and happens to be one of my favorite hoidays. When you plan your menu, consider adding a soup to kick off the meal. It will warm your guests from the inside out and is a different way to start your meal than a traditional appetizer (although I do love a great charcuterie). This soup is a lovely starter to your Thanksgiving dinner – creamy and comforting.

This recipe, from my book  Picture Perfect Parties, is one of my favorite soups all winter long, and the sage croutons make it so unique!

Acorn Squash Soup with Sage Croutons
Serves 8

You will need:
– 3 acorn squash, sliced in half and seeds removed
– 6 tbsp. olive oil (3 tablespoons to toss the squash, 3 tablespoons to sauté the shallot, onion and celery and apple and herbs)
– 2 granny smith apples, cored and chopped
– 1 medium shallot, diced
– 1/2 yellow onion, diced
– 1 cup diced celery
– 1 tsp. kosher salt
– 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
– 1 tsp. fresh dried ginger
– 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
– 4 cups vegetable stock
– 1 cup water

To Prepare:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet parchment paper or silpat.

In a large bowl toss the squash with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Place the squash, skin-side-down, onto baking sheet.

Roast in oven for 45-50 minutes, or until flesh is tender and skin is starting to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the squash to cool. Once it’s cooled, remove flesh from skin by using a spoon to scoop out the flesh into the bowl set aside.

In a large cast iron pot heat olive oil over on medium-high add apple, shallot and onions and celery and sauté until tender, about 6-8 minutes, add salt, ginger, sage, , cinnamon, and cooked squash then the vegetable stock.

Bring to a boil about 5 minutes and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the soup from the cook top, and let stand for an hour to cool. Ladle the soup in batches into a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse until smooth, place into a storage container, and repeat. This can be done 2 days before and be stored in the refrigerator until ready to heat and serve.

Sage Croutons

You will need:
– 1 loaf of rustic bread cut into 1 inch cubes
– ¼ cup olive oil
– ¼ cup chopped fresh sage
– ½ teaspoon sea salt
– ½ teaspoon black pepper
– 2 cloves minced garlic

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F

In a large bowl whisk oil, garlic, sage and salt and pepper.

Cut bread into 1 inch cubes, and toss into the sage oil mixture.

On a baking sheet spread the coated bread cubes and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. You may need to shake the baking sheet to toast the cubes evenly 5 minutes into baking.

Remove from the oven, let cool, and seal in a zip-lock bag until ready to serve.

Photo credit : Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

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